Former artistic director and founder of Playhouse West, Lois Grandi has become a sought-after director since retiring her award-winning company. Currently, she's busy directing and choreographing "She Loves Me" for Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre.

The stylish, romantic musical by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock runs April 12-28 at the beautiful Firehouse Arts Center, 444 Railroad Ave. in Pleasanton. Characterized by elegant sets and big song and dance numbers, the popular musical is based on the Hungarian play "Parfumerie" and has been made into three different films, including a musical version in 1948 featuring Judy Garland and Van Johnson and a nonmusical version in 1998 starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Pacific Coast has put together quite a team to ensure the Pleasanton show's success. In addition to Grandi, the artistic/design staff includes Pat Parr (music director), Patrick Brandon (set design), Chris Guptill (lighting) and Liz Martin (costumes). For tickets, call 925-931-4848 or go to www.firehousearts.org.

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    A tried and true crowd-pleaser, "The Sound of Music" is playing to enthusiastic audiences through April 21 at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts.

    With such melodic Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes as the title song and "Climb Every Mountain," it's nearly impossible not to feel a surge of emotion as musical director Karl Pister builds his impressive orchestra to a rousing crescendo. Luscious sets, Marcia Madeira's evocative lighting, and Sharon Bell's costumes add much to the experience.


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    Produced by Contra Costa Musical Theatre and skillfully directed by Michael Ryken, the show features the beautifully voiced Kelly Britt as an energetic, determined Marie, with Dan LeGate as Captain Von Trapp. While I didn't feel much chemistry between the two in the beginning, it certainly builds during the show culminating in an emotional rendition of "Edelweiss" in Act II.

    For the one or two people not familiar with the story, "The Sound of Music" takes place in Austria and tells of Maria, a postulant deemed too much of a free spirit for convent life. The Mother Abbess decides a few years in the outside world will help Maria find her true calling. She becomes the governess for the stern Captain Von Trapp, a widower with seven children. Maria's enthusiasm and generous heart soon win over the children and, eventually, the captain. But the threat of the Nazis invading Austria overshadows the family's happiness, and by the end of Act II, they must flee over the mountains to Switzerland.

    Ryken has emphasized the patriotism of the family and even the fervor of the Nazis to add an effective tension throughout the show and heighten the intensity of the final scenes. He also found some very talented young performers (Max DeSantis, Elia Dunderdale, Jax Franks, Trevor Gomez, Emily Joy Kessell, Eleanor Roeder, and Kristina Schoell) to play the children with more depth than usually found in other productions; especially impressive is Schoell as Liesl. The large cast also includes Melinda Meeng in an upbeat interpretation of Elsa, Von Trapp's former fiancé, and Tomas Theriot in a subtle comedic performance as Max.

    For tickets to "The Sound of Music," call 925-943-SHOW or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

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    Auditions for Woodminster's summer season take place April 8 from 4 to 7:30 p.m. for Actors' Equity Association (AEA) members with general auditions scheduled for April 13 and 14. AEA members should call Harriet Schlader at 510-339-0421 to set up an appointment. No appointment is necessary for the general audition. Shows for the season include: "Annie Get Your Gun" (July 12-21); "A Chorus Line" (Aug. 9-18); and "Legally Blonde: The Musical" (Sept. 6-15). For more information, go to www.woodminster.com.

    And for younger performers, Music Box Theatre Company is currently accepting enrollment for its Jr. Musical Camp for ages 7-11. According to artistic director Tielle Baker, the week long camp will "inform, inspire and challenge every student to be a better person and performer." The camp takes place June 18-22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and culminates in a performance on June 22. For more information, go to www.musicboxtheatre.com.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.